The weather warms and the dust swirls upon a once empty lot covered with dirt. But the dirt field is empty no longer. It is filled with the boys of summer. And I do mean, boys of summer.
With the coming of spring, I have been lured back to the ruddy infields and weed-infused green outfields of baseball diamonds strewn around the Midwest. I grew up on such a field where North of 50 and I learned the great American past time. I learned to throw against concrete steps and learned to catch as that ball came screaming back at me. You could trace how well I learned by how each month I had fewer and fewer bruises on my legs.
We played pickup at an overgrown diamond three doors down from our home. Our 'home field' even had its own backstop, a real one that arched overhead. North of 50 had an incredible pitching arm. I watched him break a batting helmet of a poor little neighborhood boy with his fastball. It was all an accident, but it made you stop and think about going up against him. He took that arm into high school and did pretty well from the mound.
My journey renewed itself this month and the memories came flooding back as I watched seven and eight year old boys, little boys, boys who learned to wear baseball caps the proper way, learned to strap a belt through a uniform pants and learned to pound the plate with their bat. Then they held the bat up high and waited for their first pitch.
The dust filled the air as the breezes blew across the chilled infield. But smells it is said, trigger some of the strongest memories. My grandson, Ragin Cage is learning to hold his glove, catch a fly and a grounder and swing a bat, hopefully at something other than a post or a tree. I see the excitement in his eyes as he now has teammates.
I remember those days, those times in my life when all I could think about was finding enough kids to play some pickup. The only this missing these days is the crack of a wooden bat. 'Ting', just doesn't do it for me, if you get my meaning.
Bottom of the third ... who's up coach?